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Appeals court partially reinstates colonoscopy malpractice claim

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A northern Indiana court inappropriately granted summary judgment in favor of a doctor and medical practice defending a suit brought by a patient who claimed negligence after a colonoscopy, a divided panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

Katherine Chaffins claimed severe pain after a procedure and that she was improperly released from the hospital, after which her pain continued until she returned and was diagnosed with a perforated colon that required surgery.

The appeals panel majority wrote in Katherine Chaffins and Roger Chaffins Sr. v. Clint Kauffman, M.D.; Family and Women's Health Services; and Pulaski County Memorial Hospital, 66A04-1302-CT-85, that the Chaffinses conceded there was no evidence to support the opinion that the doctor misperformed the procedure resulting in the perforation, but there were issues making summary judgment inappropriate.   

The majority partially reinstated a malpractice claim, finding the plaintiffs presented “sufficient evidence to negate the opinion of the medical review panel, thereby establishing a genuine issue of material fact.” The majority granted a limited reversal of Pulaski Superior Judge Patrick Blankenship’s grant of summary judgment. Blankenship relied on the medical review panel’s finding that the defendants did not fail to meet the applicable standard of care.

“What remains is the Chaffinses’ claim that the Defendants’ alleged negligence caused Katherine to suffer twelve hours of prolonged pain. At oral argument, the Defendants conceded that prolonged pain was contemplated by the ‘physical injuries’ allegation in the Chaffinses’ complaint. Accordingly, we conclude that (defendants) failed to make a prima facie showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to causation. Summary judgment in favor of Dr. Kauffman and the Hospital was inappropriate,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in the majority opinion joined by Judge Patricia Riley.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented, saying she would affirm summary judgment, noting the doctor relied on his nurse to inform him of Chaffins’ pain after the colonoscopy, which even the defendants’ expert before the review board acknowledged wasn’t inappropriate. Chaffins also was advised to return to the hospital if pain persisted.

“There is no designated evidence to show that the (dismissal) instructions deviated from the standard of care appropriate to Dr. Kauffman and Family and Women’s Health Services,” Brown wrote.

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